The Kansas in the Civil War Message Board

Major John Laing's court martial part 5

A I don't think He did

Q Was not the trunk broken open before you saw the accused looking into it
A Of course it was broken open before He looked into it

Q By whom was it broken open?
A I think it was broken open by Major Laing.

Q Do you know by whom it was broken open

98 (two 98s)

A I do not positively. I saw him have hold of the trunk.

Q Did you see Major Laing break it open?
A I did not.

Q Who lived in this white House of which you speak?
A I understand it was the House of the Guerilla Brown, commonly called Buck Brown.

Q Were not enlisted men and officers of the whole command present at that House?
A It is my opinion they were.

Q Did the accused have any thing to do with that train of oxen wagons and herd of cattle Horses Jacks and Mules that you spoke of.
A The only thing that I know he had to do with them was the whole Regiment was ordered to drive that stock one day and the whole Regiment drove it one day.

Q By whom was that order given?


A I think by Col. Jennison

Q Who was that man that reported Himself to be an aid to General Curtis.
A I am not able to say who he was, but at the time I supposed Him to be from the enemy and I have reason to believe yet that He was. His manner and all indicated that He was not from General Curtis.

Q Was he dressed as an officer?
A He was dressed in the federal uniform except the shoulder straps. He had Cavalry Pants and a Blue Blouse and Cavalry Officer Cap.

Q In what force did you see the enemy on the Blue.
A It was in the timber and brush and I could not tell what their force was.. I could not see but very few of them

Q Was there any officer with the squad of Militia you met near Shawneetown..
A I could not say whether there was or not.

Q Did you meet any officer that morning near


A We met Capt Swain with His Company a short distance before we turned to the left.

Q Was Shawneetown in sight at the point where the Command marched to the left.
A I think it was. I think we could see Houses which I supposed to be Shawneetown

Q Was there not timber intervening between where you met that Command and the town.
A I could not tell. I am not acquainted with the Road

Q Was not there a great many men detailed from the 15th on that return march in search of forage and subsistence?
A I do not know whether there were or not. There were but two men detailed from my company to my recollection on the way coming up.

Q Did you have any citizens bedding in your possession on the return trip?


A I did not.

By the Court

Q Did the accused make any effort to restore the property to the young Lady when she appealed to Him to do so.
A No sir. He made no effort to restore any property at all.

Q What was done with the purse of money taken from the pocket of the young Lady by a private soldier
A He had it the last I saw of it.

Q Was it divided with any one?
A It was not that I know of

Q Who was that private soldier?
A He was a soldier from the 15th Regiment- I don't know his name

Q Do you know what became of the stock you spoke of having seen after you got to Mound City


A Part of the stock I have seen since. The balance I don't know any thing about.

Q Where did you see that?
A In Anderson County, Kansas.

Q In whose possession?
A It was being kept by a man named Tyler

Q For whose benefit?
A He said for a man named James Bell.

Q Was any of that stock sold at Mound City for the benefit of the Government.
A There was some stock sold there by the Quarter Master. I think about forty-eight or fifty head of cattle. I think there were some Horses sold there. I don't know the number.

Q The greater part of it you think then did not accrue to the benefit of the Government
A I don't know what went with it; that was


my opinion about it.

Q Do you know any thing further than those had by Mr. Bell
A There is a private soldier in my company who has two yoke of cattle and a wagon, which he brought up. He had it when I came up here on His farm.

Q Do you know his name.
A Yes sir

Q What is it
A John Morrison

Q Do you know what became of the Jacks and Janetts.
A I do not

Q Do you know any thing further about that property you say is down on that mans farm
A Only what he told me

Q What did he tell you?
A He said he bought it of Major Laing. He said he gave Him a


double Coverlett that he Had brought up from Arkansas and a hundred and twenty five dollars in money, for two yoke of cattle a wagon and some chairs. I saw Him drive them past Head Quarters towards His farm in Kansas

Q Do you know whether there is such a man as Sergeant Geo. B. McClellan in the 15th Kansas Regiment
A I do not. I don't think there is

Q Do you think the man the accused refers to is a fictitious name
A I think it is

The witness then retired


Melvin S. Grant

A citizen of Leavenworth City Kansas a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn in presence of the accused, and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q What was your position in the militia service on or about the 22d of October last?
A I was Brigadier General.

Q Were you at Hickman's Mills on the day of the battle at Byron's ford
A I was three miles north of Hickman's Mills at what is called Hickman's ford.

Q Did you know of the presence of Maj. Laings detachment at Hickman's Mills.
A Yes sir, I found his detachment three miles north of Hickman's Mills and it moved on to that point.

Q Did you have an engagement with the enemy that day?
A Yes sir

Q Did you send any request to


Maj. Laing for reinforcements?
A Yes sir.

Q Do you know whether he received the word or not?
A Mr. Kilgore with whom I sent it, told me he carried the dispatch to him.

Q Did the enemy force you to retreat?
A Yes sir. I moved back with Col. Veale's regiment; Col. Lowes Regiment was about half way back to Hickman's Mills. I sent an order to Col Lowe to move up as soon as possible. I met a messenger who said the enemy was not in heavy force and I could force my way to Westport. I sent a messenger to Col. Lowe and Maj. Laing to join me as soon as possible. I moved up with Col. Veale's Regiment to the Macobee place and there was but a light force there as far as I could ascertain. I decided to attack them as I supposed I would soon be reinforced. We made the attack and then sent a messenger to Col. Lowe and the accused to reinforce us as soon as possible and we continued


to fight nearly an hour. They were not in strong force at the commencement, we ran them from the field two or three times but finally they flanked us and forced us to retreat. We fell back to the next hill where I found Col.. Lowe's Regiment posted in a strong position. I sent a messenger to Maj. Laing to hold Col. Veale's Reg. in check which was flying and disorganized.. We held the position until dusk, about the time I received a message from Capt. Lacey that Maj. Laing & Col. Veale was on the road to Olathe. We decided to make our way to Olathe and cross the river & did so.

Q Have you ever been over the direct road from Santa Fe to Westport?
A I have not.

Q Do you know of that road?
A I do not.

Q Can you state whether Macobee's farm is East or West of that road?
A It is East.

Q How far?


A I should judge some four or five miles. I should only judge from the nature of the road.

Cross Examination

By the Accused

Q What request or order did you first send to Maj. Laing?
A I think it was for him and Col. Lowe to move towards Westport as fast as possible

Q What was the second order?
A It was to reinforce me.

Q At what point?
A At Macobee's place

Q Was he instructed to report to any particular Regiment
A No sir I think not.

Q What reply if any did you receive from your staff officer from Maj. Laing?
A I rec'd no reply either from him or Col. Lowe.

Q What number of troops did you have under your command at that time?


A There were about 1000 militia, part of them had retreated and part of them were across the creek with the guns.

Q What was the number of Col. Veales Reg.
A Between 4 & 500

Q You say Col. Veale went to Olathe. What other officers went there besides him & the accused
A Col. Veale & the officers of his regiment.

Q Any of the other officers of the militia?
A Capt. Loosa went there & I went there early next morning. Col. Lowe remained with his Reg. near Shawneetown

By the Court

Q Was Maj. Laing & his command placed under your orders by any competent authority?
A No sir they were not. The first knowledge that I had of him being South of me, was by my getting an order to move to Hickman's ford, the same mes-


senger having a similar order for Maj. Laing.

The witness then retired

W.D. McLain

Capt of an Independent Battery Colorado Volunteers a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn in presence of the accused and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q Were you in the march from the Arkansas river to Kansas in November last.
A I was.

Q Did you observe the conduct of the 15th Kansas Cavalry on that march.
A I did

Q Describe it as to Straggling
A Every alternate day the 15th had the advance My battery followed it. When they were in advance there would be twenty or thirty men in column, and the rest I could not account for. I believe there were about 240 men reported with the regiment


Q Describe the manner of that straggling; whether it was in squads or singly
A In squads. Whether by detail or not I could not say.

Q What was the farthest you ever noticed men of that regiment straggling from the column?
A I was in the column and only saw them coming in from the right and left of the road; I could not tell what distance they went.

Q Can you state any instances that came under your observation of houses being pillaged
A Yes sir there were a number. The first house that was pillaged and burned was at Cane Hill, that I know of which was said to be a bushwhackers house. That was about two miles southwest of Cane Hill

Q By what soldiers
A That was done by the whole command, but principally by the 15th, by order from Col. Jennison

Q Can you state any other instance in which the 15th were engaged.
A The day we arrived in Bentonville the 15th was in advance. About 8 miles before we arrived at Bentonville there was a large frame house on the


right of the road; it was pillaged and burned and a church on the left of the road was burned by men of the 15th. At that time the 16th was in the rear. When I saw the men applying the torch to the church I remonstrated with them. They said they had been ordered to burn the church. The command was halted in Bentonville about the center of the town, and most of the companies of the command dispersed through the town, entering what houses they pleased and taking what they pleased. That afternoon there was a house on the side of the road pillaged by the 15th Regiment. There was a woman and a child there, and I saw the men coming out of the house with some children's clothing and a cradle blanket. I was afterward told it was stolen off a child in a cradle. Some of the officers of the 15th were present at the time.

Q State who they were if you know.
A I can't swear positively who they were. I knew at the time they were officers of the 15th and were along with the command. The day we left Sarcoxie, I think it was the 20th of November there were 3 or 4 houses robbed and burned. In one instance there was an old lady about 70 years old. I had heard that some of my men were in advance and I road forward to order them back. I found


about a dozen men of the 15th in the house pillaging it, and I ordered them to return what they had. They told me they were taking what things were there by order of Maj. Laing. The old lady went with me to the side of the road, and when the train of the 15th came up she pointed out her beds and bedding and I made the soldiers and drivers return them to her. A few miles further on I found Sergeant Dean of Co. "A" of the 15th robbing a house. When I found him he had a side saddle in his hands. I asked him what he was going to do with it; he said he intended to ride on it. I ordered him to return it to the woman, which he did. At that time my company was passing the house and the 15th was in advance, what there was of it. He said he had been ordered by Col. Jennison to get forage, and he considered a side-saddle was forage. That evening I reported the name of that sergeant to the Adjutant of the Brigade Lieut. Michael, and requested that he be placed under arrest. The next morning he told me that by order of Col. Jennison I was to report the man to Major Laing, commanding the 15th Regiment. I met Major Laing about noon that day and informed him of the circumstance and requested that Dean be placed under arrest. He told me to make out written charges. I told him it would be impossible to do so on the march, as we had no


conveniences or writing material, but requested that the man be placed under arrest, but he positively refused to do so.

Q Do you know anything in regard to the disposition of any stock, such as cattle, work oxen, horses, Jacks Jennets that was made after the command arrived in Kansas.
A Nothing positively of my own knowledge.

Q Do you know of any instance where inmates of houses that were plundered made any appeal or demand of property taken out of such house to Major Laing personally.
A No sir; he generally rode at the head of the column

Cross Examination

By the accused

Q Who was in command of the 15th Regiment on the return march.
A I was informed by the Adjutant of the Brigade that Major Laing was.

Q At what point did you receive that information?
A At different points, but I can swear positively


to but one; that was on the morning of the 21st of November. I had received the information previously and at other points. I also knew that Col. Hoyt was sick and in an ambulance

Q Was he in an ambulance all the time on the return march.
A I never saw him except mornings and evenings when he was not in an ambulance. He was reported sick and unfit for duty.

Q Was not the plunder at Bentonville committed by the Brigade Generally.
A I can't say as to that. The 16th was in our rear that day and my own company were under strict orders not to leave where they were halted without permission from a commissioned officer. I believe the 9th Wisconsin Battery got some quilts. I saw them folding some quilts up in their camp.

Q Were not the men of the 16th Regiment and your Battery engaged in plundering on the return march.
A I did allow my men to get some quilts because their bedding had been ordered to the rear by Major Hunt and I allowed them to get what was absolutely necessary. That and some vegetables they were allowed to get. Of


the 16th Regiment I can't say.

Q Do you know whether or not your men took any horses on that return march..
A They took no horses to my knowledge. they picked up two or three Government horses that were abandoned on the march down. No private horses that I know of.

By the Court

Q State the name of any officer in that command and every officer that you saw present at any pillaging who did not take an active part to prevent it.
A Where the church was burned, Col. Jennison, Lieut. Michael, Lieut. Ellis of the Reserve Corps, Capt. Dodge, 9th Wisconsin were present. I can't swear positively to any others. Where this house was burned before we arrived at Bentonville, Capt. Dodge and myself went to Col Jennison and asked why he burned it. He said it was by his order; that it belonged to a damned bushwhacker.

Q Were there any other officers of any other Regiment who were present and did not seem to take an active part to prevent it


A That same day there was another house burned. As I rode along a woman came out to the fence and asked where the Quarter Master was that she might get a voucher for some cattle and corn the soldiers had taken. Capt. Thompson, the Brigade Quartermaster was present, and I referred her to him. He then denied being Quartermaster and refused to give her a voucher.

Q Are there no other names you can think of? Did you see Major Laing there
A I never saw him present at the pillage of any house. He generally road at the head of the Regiment and had passed before I came to the scene of any thing of the kind. On the night we passed through Bentonville, most of the officers of the command signed a protest against pillaging and some of the officers refused to sign it.

Q Who refused to sign it
A The officers generally of the 15th Regiment

Q Was Major Laing generally in command of the fifteen or twenty men you saw marching in the column
A He was generally riding at their head

The witness then retired


John Sanderson

private of the 1st Colorado Battery, a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn in presence of the accused and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q Were you present at a house at or near Prairie Grove, Ark. on the return march from the Arkansas river when the accused was present?
A Yes sir

Q State what occurred there?
A We were out after forage at Prairie Grove, and when we came back to the house there were a lot of soldiers there, and also the accused. They got something to eat there at the house.

Q What did these soldiers do at this house and to what regiment did they belong.
A They belonged to the 15th Kansas. They got some bread and butter and some things to eat there, after getting forage.

Q State whether or not there was any request made by a lady at that house to Major Laing asking him to prevent the soldiers robbing.


A Yes sir. I believe she asked him to take the soldiers away.

Q What was his reply.
A He said he could not do anything with them; they were in the habit of doing as they pleased

Q Did you see any instance where money was taken from women by soldiers of the 15th Regiment
A I don't know that there was any money; I saw some pocket books taken but I don't know what was in them

Q Where was that?
A This side of Prairie Grove at the right of the road

Q Did these soldiers demand the money?
A Yes sir

Q State what they did at the time?
A They drew their revolvers and demanded her money; she said she had none.. Finally she gave them her pocket book, but what was in it I don't know.

Q Do you know what company they belonged to.
A I do not. There were two sergeants and one private. One of them took a feather bed at


the same place. The sergeant told the private to get what he came after, and he went and took a feather bed. She said her husband was a Union soldier in the fort at Fayetteville

Q Did he take the bed off.
A Yes sir

Q How far was this from the column?
A About 4 miles I think

Q Did you see any houses fired by soldiers of the 15th Regiment?
A I don't know that they belonged to that Regiment; I saw houses fired.

Cross Examination

By the accused

Q Was not Major Ketner of the 16th and some of the men of that Regiment at that house before the accused came there
A I did not see him. I was out in the field after forage, and when I came in he was not there.

Q Was the accused present when the pocket book


was taken of which you speak.
A No sir

The witness then retired

The Judge Advocate then announced that the prosecution was closed.

The court then adjourned until 10 o'clock A.M. Tuesday March 7, 1865


Fort Leavenworth Kansas

10 o'clock A.M.

Tuesday March 7 1865

The court met pursuant to adjournment


The same members as at the last session. The Judge Advocate, the accused and his counsel were also present.

The Proceedings of the last session were read and approved.

James G. Blunt

Major General U.S.V. a witness on the part of the defense was duly sworn in presence of the accused, by the Judge Advocate and examined

By the accused

Q Are you acquainted with the accused
A I am sir

Q Have you ever seen him in battle and if so


where, and what was his conduct as to courage.
A The only that he ever came under my personal observation in an engagement was at the battle of Little Blue on the 21st of October last. There was nothing I observed in his conduct that was discreditable to him as an officer.

The witness then retired

On motion the case was continued until March 1865.


Fort Leavenworth Kansas

10 o'clock A.M.

Wednesday March 8, 1865

The court met pursuant to adjournment


The Same members as at the last session. The Judge Advocate, the accused and his counsel were also present.

The proceedings of the last session were read and approved.

Chas. R. Jennison

Colonel 15th Kansas Vol. Cav. was recalled for the defense and examined

By the accused

Q Do you know the accused?
A I do

Q State what opportunities you have had to observe the general conduct of the accused as an officer


A Since the organization of the 15th Kansas Vol. Cav. he has been under my immediate command part of the time. During the recent campaign in different engagements he under my personal observation. At the Little Blue I had occasion to call Major General Blunt's attention to the conduct of the accused on the battle field. At which time Gen'l Blunt agreed with me that he handled his men coolly and conducted himself as an officer well qualified for the position. At Newtonia he was reported to me by Lieut. Col Hoyt, commanding the Brigade as conducting himself with the same gallantry there. Some complaints were made to me of Major Laing since the return march, for depredations said to have been committed by him, but nothing has been officially brought to my knowledge.

The witness then retired